If you are to have trust in relationships—or have any hope of recognizing genuine deception—then you need to see what is in you that might have value. You need to see that little bit of sparkle that makes you you and would make someone want to be with you, instead of merely wanting something from you. If you cannot see it, as I have not been able to see it, then relationships become guessing games of wondering what they really want and whether what they want is something you want to give them and what they will do to you if you cannot or will not give it to them. You will see a kind of emotional deception everywhere, and be unable to recognize it when it really happens.
I think this is part of why survivors of abuse end up in a lot of shitty relationships. We cannot see people who do not care about us, because our assumption is that no one can really care. We cannot see something clearly that is everywhere.
I could not see it. I use the past tense because it is possible that I might see it now, but I have not really tried yet. I have just been writing all day, drinking coffee, and occasionally eating biscuits. I have interacted with the world to some extent, but not deeply enough to notice whether my sparkle has any value to anyone. I might try it later on today. Or tomorrow.
But when C came flying across the old assembly ground to show me her math paper, I think it was because of the sparkle she saw in me. I wanted to see her math paper, and she wanted it (and herself) to be seen. By me. Because I mattered to her. Not necessarily a tremendous amount—she did not really know me. Just some.
I didn’t see that. I saw only need. There was a need being expressed: “Please like me.” It’s just that is not all there was.
I think my inability to see the value she places on me has cast a shadow over our relationship. Specifically, I think it has made me look for deception when there wasn’t any. This isn’t to say there hasn’t been deception. She does lie and has lied to me, more than once, sometimes to avoid getting in trouble. Usually to protect my feelings from something. I have thought she might be lying and been more alert to the possibility of her lying than was ever necessary.
It’s true being alert to lying is something that is bound to happen to someone raised by a sociopath. I don’t have specific memories of my dad lying, but his whole existence was a lie. His presentation of himself was a lie. Everything about him was a lie. Certainly, when I am triggered in particular ways, I become hyperalert to lying. It’s not simply about not seeing my own potential to be valued. It’s a piece of it though.
I was thinking about this because in one of our most recent conversations, I couldn’t figure out if she was telling the truth or not. She seemed to be saying all winter, she will not return to Y-town. Not until the 15th of February will I see her again. Talking to her mother, however, it emerged that C will be back in Y-town in about 2 weeks. It would seem that C is lying, which then sets off the trail of thoughts in me wherein I try to sort out her motives for lying. It would seem she is avoiding seeing me, but why?
However, she may not be lying. It may be that her mother intends for C to come back to Y-town and C simply has other plans. In other words, I might be getting the truth about what she is trying to make happen, and her mother is telling me what will happen if C’s plan fails.
Her lie about returning in approximately 2 weeks makes the rest of what she said seem like a lie also: She said her grandparents wanted her to stay and help them. Now, she also said she hadn’t called me back even though I had made a clear rule that she needs to have some kind of contact with me every day while I was gone from Y-town because her grandparents thought she was talking to her boyfriend when she spoke English.
Now, later, I confronted her about that bit, because it didn’t make any sense. First of all, she stopped responding to me before she was even at her grandparents’ house. But second of all, no Country X-er willingly speaks to a fellow Country X-er in English. Her grandparents are not going to connect English with love-talk. No one in their right mind does that here. They aren’t stupid. So I said that. I said it doesn’t make any sense. She smiled her shy smile and said, “I forgot my phone at my friend’s house. Then I thought you would be angry at me.” Ah, yes, that makes a lot more sense as an explanation.
So that lie made other parts of the same conversation seem like lies. And yet they may not be. C cares a lot about her family, about her parents and her small siblings and her grandparents. She does not express this in words most of the time, but it is really clear in her actions. Her little brother, when he is on the verge of a meltdown, looks at her and says “mommy” in his native language. Now, the word for sister is basically “nommy.” Maybe I am mishearing that, but I think I am not. I think he feels he has two mommies. Mom and C. And C is his mommy because she responds to him. She is nurturing and comforting and responsive. It is her nature to be that way.
I have thought for a long time that some of the reasons she has given me for not seeing me, not taking tuitions with me, not talking to me about important topics were lies. Some of them were. When people in her class were commenting that she was having a romantic relationship with me, she did lie. She lied and made flimsy excuses. I mean, what else was she going to do? Tell a teacher people think I’m your girlfriend? I can’t imagine that.
But it seems to me now the other flimsy excuses were not flimsy excuses. When she says things that relate to taking care of her mom and her family or even just being available to them, it’s because she feels that way. It is not appropriate that she feels that way—she is being parentified—but it is the truth. If she says she wants to take care of her grandparents, that may also be the truth.
And I have never been sure about this because she sometimes lies and because I saw a fundamental lie about the value she places on me at work in every interaction between us. If there is no sparkle in me to appreciate, then her appreciation of me is always a lie. This triggers me into looking for lies even more.
I mention this because I think this is an issue for everyone who has had a catastrophic experience of not being valued or nurtured. It is not that everyone is scary—necessarily—but that everyone is potentially deceptive. Anyone who seems to care is lying or might be lying. They may not necessarily harm you, but they will use you. For me, it has made me look not necessarily for maliciousness, but for callousness—everywhere.